Just testing: Subaru Outback 2.5i SE Premium Lineartronic

Cinderella brand or genuine Volvo contender? Tim Gibson weighs the merits of Subaru’s rugged AWD estate

By Tim Gibson

Next time you head to a rural Waitrose, look closely at the vehicles lined up in the car park.

    (96 per cent of Subarus sold in the last decade are still on the road)  

In among the inevitable Volvo XC70s and Audi All Roads, you’ll most likely see at least one Subaru Outback. Chances are it’ll be caked in filth, with a pervasive stink of dog, horse or farm about it (and maybe all three). It may well be extremely elderly.

Now, I guarantee that when its owner (who could be wearing red cords and a tatty Barber jacket) clambers aboard, it will start on the button, with nary a stutter. Instead, you’ll hear the distinctive burble of its flat-four boxer engine, before the car roars off majestically.

Then you’ll be left with a sense of crushing disappointment in whatever non-Subaru vehicle you happen to drive.

You see, Subarus have an inalienable presence. They last for donkeys’ years (96 per cent of Subarus sold in the last decade are still on the road) and combine rugged all-wheel drive capability with genuine driver pleasure.

Remember those gold-wheeled Imprezas that used to yang around town in the 1990s? There’s a reason they were so popular among boy racers of every age.

All of which begs a question: why aren’t there more Subarus on the road? If they’re so brilliant, why aren’t the buying public flocking to their local dealership and placing an order?

As with most things, it’s all to do with branding. Subaru has long been regarded as a niche manufacturer, a bit like Saab, or Volvo before it got cool. If you know the company, you’ll most likely stick with it forever. But it’s rare to see a Scooby on the front cover of What Car? They’re just not mainstream enough.

Didn’t stop me from getting an all-new Outback on test, though. This is the first version in a while not to be available with a turbo diesel engine, which is an initial source of regret to me. But Subaru’s heritage has always been in petrols. It only launched diesel derivatives in the 2000s to meet the burgeoning demand for heavy fuel that was prompted by government incentives. And we all know how that worked out.

So a 2.5-litre petrol lump it is – and a lovely one at that. Power output is 175PS, allied to a maximum torque of 235Nm @ 4,000rpm that’s delivered through a smooth Continuously Variable Transmission with step changes to feel like a conventional automatic. It’s not sh*t-off-a-shovel fast, but it’s more than enough to raise a smile along a quiet back road.

If I have one concern about the move away from diesel power, it’s to do with the Outback’s popularity as a tow car. I’ve pulled a heavy caravan with a diesel version of the vehicle’s predecessor, and it was brilliant in every way. But the petrol plant lacks low-down torque, and I wonder if it will be quite so formidable with a tonne and a half of metal strapped to the back.

    The SE Premium spec version comes with heated leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and – steering-responsive headlights.  

That said, the Outback takes a lot of beating when solo. Despite raised suspension, it’s far more car-like than your average SUV or crossover. Not quite as refined as a Volvo V60 XC, but more competent in genuinely challenging off-road conditions. And the Subaru’s relative lack of plushness will undoubtedly inspire confidence in your average country dweller.

Not that the Outback is in any way spartan. The SE Premium spec version comes with heated leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and – my absolute favourite around dark country lanes – steering-responsive headlights.

All models get Subaru’s brilliant X-MODE all-wheel drive system that breeds genuine capability in the rough stuff. I once drove a version of this car through a waterlogged Welsh quarry and was amazed by its ability to keep up with a fleet of highly modified Land Rover Defenders.

The car also gets Subaru’s Volvo-challenging EyeSight technology, which delivers features such as adaptive cruise control and emergency autonomous braking. That makes it an easy companion for long hauls up the motorway, bringing welcome reassurance, especially if you’re tired.

Sure, it’s a bit twitchy in comparison to your average family estate or saloon. But such vehicles won’t have the go-anywhere magnificence that is hard wired into the Outback. And they won’t give you the same sense that you’re driving a genuinely unusual vehicle, helping you stand apart from the crowd.

This distinctive character is both a blessing and a curse. Subaru dealers tell me they struggle to get buyers into their vehicles, because of their quirky image. They also struggle to get converts to upgrade, because Subarus seem to get better as they age.

That probably explains why the franchise network is relatively sparse. If you want to test drive an Outback, you’ll have to travel a bit further than your local town. Unless you live in the middle of nowhere, in which case your local dealership is probably right next door. That’s a clue to the company’s strongest markets.

This won’t be a problem once you’ve bought the car. A recent survey by warranty provider MotorEasy identified Subaru as the UK’s most reliable manufacturer. So you should only need to visit the workshop for routine servicing, which is likely to be more affordable than for prestige brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

All told, then, the Outback is a highly credible vehicle. If you like its image (personally I love it) you’ll no doubt be smitten. If you think it’s just too agricultural, so be it. God invented Volvo for people just like you.

On test

  • Subaru Outback 2.5i SE Premium Lineartronic CVT
  • 175PS
  • 33mpg combined (official figures)
  • 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds
  • 166g/km CO2 emissions
  • Price: £33,025 (but deals to be had on nearly new and ex-demos)

Tim Gibson has written about cars for 25 years. His work regularly appears in The Daily Telegraph and other national media.

Published: 10 May 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

If you enjoyed this article, you may like: Just testing: how to pick up a tax break on your next company car

You may also enjoy: Just cooking: barbecue rotisserie prime ribs of beef

Jobs currently available

New job
Goods In and Despatch Person
Sector: Warehouse
Salary: £10.00 - £11.00 per hour
Location: Colchester
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909243
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a goods in and despatch person with some QC experience on behalf of a company based in Colchester.

You will be responsible for booking in and booking out all deliveries for the company. Competent skills in use of computers and Excel is essential for this position.

Aim:

To assist the two Production Managers with the coordination and control of all goods in and out process, for all departments. Excellent communication between departments is necessary.

Responsibilities:

  • Oversee all goods arriving and being despatched from the factory in an orderly manner
  • Quality control of all products leaving and entering the factory from finishers or being sent directly to clients
  • Compiling pallets lists using Excel
  • Keep the despatch list up to date for purchasing and sales information
  • Collate all the delivery notes for the purchasing dept to collect and check them against the purchase order and mark that they have arrived

Characteristics:

  • Meticulous attention to detail, alongside a high level of accuracy
  • Keeping work area clean and tidy
  • Self-motivated
  • Good time management skills with the ability to prioritise simultaneous multiple tasks
  • Ability to read CAD drawings desirable but not essential
  • Forklift licence preferred
Read more
New job
Machine Operator/Assembler
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: £18,000 - £20,000 per annum
Location: Sudbury
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909240
About the role

Just Recruitment is looking for a Machine Operator/Assembler for a client based on the outskirts of Sudbury.

The role will involve the following skills:

  • Assembly of timber staircases from in-house manufactured components.
  • Working to daily/weekly deadlines.
  • Assisting with machining standard parts for staircase assembly.
  • Assisting team with loading and despatching finished goods and making the necessary despatch records.
  • Use of a variety of hand and power tools including power screw drivers and nail guns.
  • Application of specialist adhesives.
  • The use of special stair press, squares and other measuring tools to ensure that products are put together accurately and consistently.
  • Machine setting: loading of cutting tools to magazine and placing work holding equipment on machine bed.
  • Loading of work-piece blanks to machine table using laser alignment system or other stop/location devices where necessary.
  • Machine operation: Exercising awareness whilst machines are ‘in cycle’, clearing of waste and offcuts and remaining watchful for other employees approaching the area where the machines are in ‘automatic operation’.

In addition, candidates should be:

  • Physically fit and be able to carry out this task across the entire working day.
  • Able to lift and carry parts and materials and be experienced in group lifting activities when the need arises.
  • Comfortable with handling workshop documentation, adhering to established works procedures and eventual involvement in computer-based data entry.
  • Have a familiarity with timber machining and how cutter rotation, in and out paths can Additional skills in first aid, H&S, manual handling (maybe with supporting vocational qualifications) or fork truck driving will also be noted.
  • Reading component data from workshop documentation including drawings and cutting lists.
  • Carrying out daily/weekly/monthly maintenance and cleaning of machinery to keep in good working order.
  • Any candidate who has had prior experience of CNC machining of timber components will be of interest

Monday to Friday 8am-4.30pm

Free Parking

20 days plus bank holidays

Standard gov pension scheme.

Read more
New job
Sales Executive £40k OTE plus Company Car
Sector: Sales
Location: Colchester
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 906139
About the role

Just Recruitment is delighted to be representing a company based on the outskirts of Colchester, they are looking for a new member of the sales team. 

Are you a driven sales person looking for a new business role? 

Would you like to self manage your day, drive your own leads and develop new business? 

Would you like to work in a role where you have autonomy? 

The package offered includes a basic salary and commission, this is uncapped and the average sales person is earning in excess of £40k.

As well as a good financial package you will have 20 days holiday plus bank holidays, staff benefits, an excellent working environment and the opportunity to progress. 

You will also have a fully expensed company car! 

Your normal working hours will be Monday to Friday 9 - 5:30 but this role does require some travel and 1 night away away from home (Thursday night - fully expensed and meals included)

You must possess the following skills and attributes:

  • Excellent communications skills.
  • Be able to communicate at all levels as you will need to deliver information to stakeholders.
  • Excellent IT skills.
  • A real desire to be successful.
  • Outgoing, bright personality.
  • It would be beneficial to have but not essential.
  • Sales experience.

This is an excellent opportunity to build a successful career, its all about you!

Please note that due to the nature of the role and travel required you must have a full clean driving licence and be prepared to stay away from home 1 night a week (Thursday). 

Read more
New job
Payroll Assistant
Sector: Accountancy, Banking and Finance
Salary: £19,000 - £23,000 per annum
Location: Norfolk – Norwich
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909231
About the role

Our client, a leading independent accountancy firm are looking to recruit a Payroll Administrator to join their practice in Norfolk

This role may be suitable for you if you have previously been involved in the preparation of payrolls (ideally within a bureau environment) and if you have a keen interest in further developing your skills and becoming part of a busy payroll bureau.

The available position is working within the Business and Private Team in the payroll bureau, assisting with the processing of client payrolls which vary in frequency (weekly, monthly, 2/4 weekly) and in size (1 to 100+ employees). 

You will have the opportunity to get involved in all aspects of the payroll function and will have the potential to progress with increased responsibility for clients. We are looking for a candidate with good communication skills, who enjoys working as part of a team, has the ability to organise their workload and an appetite for learning and development.

Addresses, discusses and advances conclusion in respect of technical and audit issues identified during the course of the audit

Controls the audit in relation to timescales, budgets and risk managements procedures

Provides feedback through regular communication and timely assignment appraisal

To be conserved for the role you will have:

  • SAGE and / or Payroll Professional (formerly known as Star) experience.
  • Xero / Quickbooks payroll experience.
  • Background in working in a payroll bureau environment
Read more
New job
Grinding Operator - Days
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Braintree
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909224
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a GRINDING OPERATIVE for their client based in Braintree, Essex.

This is a rewarding role and will appeal particularly to applicants who have basic cylindrical grinding experience and who thrive on challenges.

This role is varied with opportunities to enhance exiting skills and learn new, training will be provided as required.

Scope:

  • Experience of precision or Tool room grinding.
  • Knowledge of cylindrical grinding principles.
  • Proven engineering background in a similar environment.
  • Willingness and ability to work as part of a team.
  • Must be physically fit as repetitive lifting/moving is required.

Role:

  • Ideally similar background in manufacturing, production and grinding-based roles, would be advantageous but not essential.
  • Use of pre-set meters and gauges to check conformity of product.
  • A willingness to learn and constantly improve.
  • Good team worker.

Hours of Work:

Day Shift:

  • Monday – Thursday: 7.30am – 16.00pm.
  • Friday: 7.30am – 15.00pm 39 hours per week.

Additional hours at overtime rate are available to suit business demands.

Read more
Account Manager
Sector: Sales
Salary: Up to £22,000 per annum
Location: Colchester
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909214
About the role

Just Recruitment is looking for an Account Manager to join their client, a well regarded organisation based on the outskirts of Colchester looking to add an Account Manager to their highly successful team.

Offering an excellent package and great working environment, this is a great opportunity to join a company that rewards hard work and dedication.

The key purpose of this role is to effectively manage, oversee and organize interactions between our customers and the organization throughout the customer life cycle.

You will optimize interactions from the customer’s perspective, and as a result, foster customer loyalty and advocacy.

You are responsible for managing excellent communication and interactions between customers and the company, providing a high quality of customer service which increases the company’s reputation leading to increased sales and improved business performance.

Key duties include but are not limited to the following:

  • Duties will include preparing quotations, processing orders, handling enquiries via incoming calls, updating customer accounts and dealing with correspondence.
  • To provide the first line of contact for all incoming calls to the business, ensuring calls are handled in a professional and helpful manner.
  • Process both telephone and email enquiries with speed and accuracy, ensuring customers are made aware of all relevant information.
  • Ensure all customer contacts, sales and service issues are resolved to achieve a high level of customer satisfaction, balanced against commercial viability.
  • The ability to generate additional sales through the conversion of quotations, upsell products, and promotional selling and proactive calls.
  • To optimize every opportunity within all areas of the sales department to ensure individual KPI targets are consistently met, and contribute towards team, and company objectives.
  • Arranging PDF artwork Visuals & samples.
  • Following up on samples.
  • Converting quotes into orders.
  • Checking stock levels.
  • Checking deadlines can be met by suppliers.
  • Creating electronic files to store client’s information regarding the order.
  • Entering the correct data onto the system which accurately reflects the status of orders.
  • Liaising with clients and making them aware of the order progress.
  • Checking on order status to ensure smooth running of orders to avoid any issues.

Attributes needed for this role are:

  • Excellent Organization skills.
  • Good communication skills and excellent attention to detail.
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced office environment.
  • Equipped to work as a team player as well as an individual.
  • Experienced at working towards targets/KPI’s.
  • Computer literacy and keyboard skills essential.

 

Read more